Friday, August 29, 2008

So What (Part One)

I've noticed that two of the phrases most used today by conservative commenters online today in reaction to McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate are "executive experience" and "Washington insider," the first in reference to Palin, the second to Joe Biden. I posit that these terms are neutral and meaningless in and of themselves, especially in their current context.

"Executive Experience"

This is the first time since 1960 that a member of Congress will be elected to the presidency. All the other presidents in recent history have been governor of a state or the vice president. And part of the argument has been that governorship is the most relevant training for the presidency. I agree that it can be relevant, but believe that this depends very greatly on the state and the circumstances.

You could say that someone like Schwartzenegger (CA), Romney and Deval Patrick (MA), Ed Rendell (PA), Tim Kaine (VA), Jennifer Granholm (MI) or even Tim Pawlenty (MN)* have relevant executive experience. Managing a populous state with disparate needs within its borders (and in the case of a state like California, an economy on the order of the world's wealthiest nations and a semi-regular need for the state national guard in disaster response) is a complex and challenging managerial task. Some governors (including, possibly, some that I've listed) may be more staff-dependent to keep up this task, but I think that the kinds of choices you have to make in states like these are very relevant to the decision-making process as POTUS.

BUT: Republicans are touting the fact that she has "more executive experience" than the rest of both tickets combined. In a strictly literal sense, this is true. None of the other three have held managerial positions. But the experience they have is far more relevant to the presidency than serving the first 1.67 years of a gubernatorial term in a fairly homogenous (I may be ignorant of Alaska on that point), sparsely populated state drowning in Federal support and oil money (she signed a windfall profits tax on oil companies in the state, and supports giving them more places to drill there). In terms of difficult decision-making, give-and-take, and exposure to national and international issues, her experience PALES in comparison to Obama's four years in the Senate and on the Foreign Relations Committee, and running a massive, 50-state presidential campaign that upset Hillary Clinton. Strategists are saying that Obama's smart move will be to point out how baldly disingenuous this selection renders McCain's criticism of Obama's experience. That's true, but I think that she also loses the experience comparison on the merits.

Dang. Wrote more than I intended. Will talk Washington insider later.

* For those keeping score, that's CAMAPAVAMIMN**. Ask your doctor if Camapavamimn is right for you.

** Oddly, spellcheck didn't underline this word.

*** This footnote has no antecedant, since I didn't feel like putting asterixes in the post title. I just wanted to put it on the public record that the opening chords of "So What," the first track of Miles Davis' seminal album "Kind of Blue," are perfect. That is all.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I don't generally want this blog to be about politics, but it's been occupying a good deal of my thought process lately, so you, reader, cannot escape. Unless, uh, you don't read this.

Political stuff:

McCain's recent ads on Obama have stretched the truth about the Illinois Senator and his positions so far as to be meaningless. For instance the bit about Obama voting to raise taxes on everyone making over $42,000 a year. Oddly enough, it takes Fox News, of all organizations, to push back on this. In being questioned, McCain campaign... dude... Rick Davis claims that Obama voted to raise taxes 90 times in his four years in the Senate. Many of these votes I suspect were for non-binding budget resolutions (as is the $42k thing), omnibus bills, and so on. And given that likelihood, I suspect McCain voted for some of them as well. This last bit is speculation, though.

What I can say is that there are pretty good numbers out there, from non-partisan groups like the Tax Policy Center, breaking down the proposed tax plans of the candidates. And some enterprising Obama supporter has coded the numbers into a handy-dandy little tool to estimate your own tax cut under the Obama plan, also giving the comparitive number for McCain's plan, if the McCain cut is less. You have to be making $200,000 or more a year (if married with one income) to have the McCain plan benefit you more (Following this thread, McCain's plan also taxes health benefits, which is something I just noticed the other day, and am creeped out by).

There are plenty of other issues, economic and otherwise, in this election. And I will certainly not claim that Obama's perfect. But I thought the web tool does a nice job of dispeling Candidate McCain's deceptive ads. And of course, I'm essentially repeating talking points here. That's because I want to spread the word and I want Obama to win.

P.S. A McCain campaign advisor who helped craft his health plan says the uninsured have insurance. It's called going to the emergency room. Because that's totally not already part of the problem in spiralling medical costs for everybody. Jerk. (See also Butch Roy for why the emergency room isn't acceptable health insurance.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A tragedy for Minnesota

Less than 24 hours after my post on Friday, it seems callous and tone-deaf.

I grew up going to Bachman's with my parents for pretty much anything plant-related. One of my best friends in high school lived around the corner from - and worked at - their hq and store #1. Bachman's centerpieces were present for every Christmas & Easter. Suffice to say, they're a major part of, to put it a goofy way, the Minneapolis and Minnesota "family." The murder Saturday morning in Beijing of Todd Bachman, CEO of the company, is a senseless tragedy, and is indeed a story that is deeply felt in the Twin Cities. My thoughts go out to the Bachman family.

Friday, August 8, 2008

We're gonna make it after all!

The Minnesota news media has a HUGE inferiority complex about the state. Now, I'm a lifelong Minnesotan and take a certain amount of pride in my home state, and get annoyed by those who consider MN "flyover country." That said, I found the contortions that the local media made to make major tragedies like September 11th, the Indian Ocean tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina about Minnesota embarrassing. Whenever there's a story like these, you can count on the Star Tribune to find the one person who lived in White Bear Lake for a summer and has a cousin who lost their dog in the tsunami or some such contrivance, and put it at the top of the front page of their website.

Those were extreme cases. Sometimes it's just funny, and reminds me of a proud parent clipping any mention of their kid from the paper. Like when they run their annual pieces concerning the tenuous Minnesotan roots of people nominated for Academy Awards. Along those lines, I give you Exhibit A.

Adorable! It's like they're the Grinnell Herald Register (there's no webpage) or something. Hey everybody, there was a governor on the front page of the NY Times today, and guess what! It was ours!

I bet they don't do stories like this in California.

Also: there's a grammatical error in the STrib article.

Alternate headline for the article: "Pawlenty's seeking of national spotlight makes national spotlight."

Following up on last week's quiz bonus question, commenter "Scott" got the correct answer, identifying my error of referring to West Germany as Germany in the quiz. He also claims that Peking is the English name for Beijing. Wikipedia (grain of salt) claims that Peking is a name that has "also" been used in English, but not the sole one; also, I've always heard/seen "Beijing" used in the media, so I'm going to give just a half-additional shout-out to Scott for that one. For those keeping score, that brings his total to a shout-out and a half.